The Applied Visualization Laboratory contains several 3D immersive environments for scientists and engineers to walk into their data, examine it, and provide deep analysis in pursuit of their research.
As mixed, virtual, and augmented reality technology evolves, the opportunities for portable, in-depth analysis of complex data sets increases. Augmented reality solutions are envisioned to allow researchers to have CAVE-like experiences anywhere. Web-based 3-D geographic information systems, mobile applications (for both phone and tablet) and serious games (games built for training or educational purposes) allow users to conduct research at their desks or in the field, enabling discovery outside the lab. Virtual reality exploration systems offer the ability to create visualizations of large data sets that can be projected and run in real-time simulations. Using six-degrees-of-freedom input devices – which allow a body to move forward and backward, up and down, left to right – and stereoscopic output, they offer the benefits of more realistic interaction.

The Center for Advanced Energy Studies (CAES) opened its first Cave Automatic Virtual Environment (CAVE) in 2010. With the new CAVE installed in 2017, CAES’s Applied Visualization Laboratory is even better equipped to provide researchers from universities, industry and government agencies with a user facility where they can visualize and address scientific and technical challenges.

Quick Facts

  • CAES operates the AVL as a user facility, allowing universities, government agencies, and industry to access the lab to solve myriad technical and research problems.
  • CAES and Idaho National Laboratory (INL) have provided three portable 3-D visualization systems to Boise State University, Idaho State University, and University of Idaho to bolster their modeling and simulation capabilities.
  • CAES and INL are developing next-generation methods for ingesting and manipulating real-time data in various immersive and virtual reality systems.
  • Lab Layout (click on image to enlarge):


The Computer Assisted Virtual Environment (CAVE)

This four-panel system – 12’x12’x7.5’ uses rear digital projection to display computer graphics on three walls and the
floor. Large data sets can be loaded quickly into the system. Wearing stereoscopic glasses to create depth perception and
using a wand to manipulate and control data, researchers can study such things as contaminant flows through water
systems, plot construction of new power transmission lines over topographically accurate terrain or examine graphite billets
from a nuclear reactor.


The lab in conjunction with University of Indiana has developed a low cost mobile solution similar to the CAVE called the Inexpensive Interactive Immersive Interface (I-quaded or IQ) Station. These systems use 3D televisions or projectors and screens, low cost tracking solutions, and commercial devices such as the Wii Remote for manipulation. These solutions have been deployed in AVL, around Idaho National Laboratory, CAES partner institutions, and throughout the world.

Virtual Reality Headsets

The AVL contains a virtual reality headset for the researchers for testing in solo or in their own laboratories. This enables a portable and fully immersive experience for the scientist without having to install a CAVE in their building. The AVL is developing a number of software solutions that allow the researchers to use the same software on their desktop, virtual reality headset, and in the CAVE.

Stereo Wall

The Stereo Wall is a 3D immersive environment similar to the CAVE, but contains only one wall and uses the same controls and tracking as the CAVE. It provides a development type environment for scientists and engineers to try out their data sets in preparation for use in the CAVE or while CAVE is in use for other experiments.

Mobile Devices

The AVL provides scientists and engineers the change to use the immersive environments with mobile devices such as tablets and phones for a deployable solution about the laboratory environment without any special setup. These devices, when used with the CAVE, allow interactions with the data inside the CAVE. Outside the CAVE and AVL, these allow the user to take their results to show to anyone, anywhere.


Check out our 3D demo project.